North·Q&A

What you need to know about the Indian Day School settlement

After the federal government's announcement about a settlement in the case, CBC spoke to lawyer Bob Winogron about who's eligible, how they apply, and how long it will take.

Federal gov't announced multi-million dollar settlement for survivors

Mariette Buckshot and Margaret Swan, left, console each other during an Indian Day school litigation announcement in Ottawa earlier this week. Many still have questions about eligibility. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

There are still questions from many former Indian Day School students and their families about who is eligible for compensation after the federal government announced Tuesday that a settlement has been reached.

Students of the federally-run institutions, dozens of which were in the North, launched a class-action lawsuit alleging they faced abuse and neglect while in the care of the state.

On Tuesday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced that, as part of the proposed settlement, students who suffered harm while attending the schools will be eligible for $10,000 in individual compensation. Those students who experienced physical and sexual abuse, meanwhile, are eligible for additional compensation, with amounts ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. 

CBC reporter Hilary Bird spoke with lawyer Bob Winogron of Gowling WLG law firm in Ottawa to answer some questions. Winogron's firm represented Indian Day School survivors in the recent class-action suit that resulted in this settlement. 

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Q: People are eligible for a settlement of up to $200,000 if they suffered abuse. Will they need to prove that abuse took place? How will that happen?

Well this is one lesson we learned from [the Residential School Settlement process]. There was a lot of re-traumatization. People were grilled on their stories and many were re-traumatized having to live through it again and be challenged on it. So our process is designed to avoid that.

They will not be grilled or asked any questions by lawyers or anyone else. They will be presumed to be truthful.

Claimants will fill out paper forms and submit those forms to the administrator. There's not going to be any cross examination. They will not be grilled or asked any questions by lawyers or anyone else. They will be presumed to be truthful. 

Q: Can someone apply for a settlement if they already received payment for time they spent in residential school, if they also spent years at a federally-run day school?

Yes, that's the short answer. It doesn't matter where someone lived or where else they went to school. If they attended a day school they will be eligible to apply for compensation.

Bob Winogron represented Indian Day School survivors in the recent class-action lawsuit. (submitted by Bob Winogron)

Q: Who can apply for the Legacy Fund?

The legacy fund is a pool of $200 million. Communities can apply for funding for wellness and healing initiatives. Communities can also apply for language, cultural initiatives. They can also apply for commemoration funding. So, every First Nation in Canada can apply for funding to hold some sort of event, the design of which they will come up with themselves to commemorate the day school experience

Q: Can the relatives of a day school survivor who has died apply for the settlement?

Estates can make claims. This will go back as far as November 2007. If a person has passed away between November of 2007 and today, the estate of that person can still make a claim on that person's behalf. So conceivably family members would share in the proceeds of those compensation on behalf of the estate.

Q: What is going to happen next?

We have signed a settlement agreement with the government of Canada, but that doesn't mean that it's a done deal, of course. The federal court still has to approve it and we're expecting that to take place probably in May, although that's not confirmed yet.

Once the federal court approves the settlement it will, at the same time, appoint an administrator. That administrator won't be us. Another company will administer the entire settlement. They will have forms and claimants will fill out claim forms and submit them to the administrator. The administrator will review it and then send out a cheque.

Here's a list of federal day schools included in the settlement:

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